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The Importance of Women Entrepreneurs in Developing Markets

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This week across the world businesses, organisations and individuals have been celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week. The campaign has been successfully encouraging people to pursue their dreams, improving business skills for aspiring entrepreneurs and helping people access support.

Especially in the midst of a global recession, it is vital that we promote entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking. While multinational corporations appear to loom over us, small and medium size enterprises are equally as important in sustaining our economies, creating jobs and fostering growth. Additionally, entrepreneurship can increase levels of confidence and happiness in people, as the satisfaction of achievement and self-sufficiency can boost self-esteem and overall well-being.

Supporting entrepreneurship is undoubtedly a positive and practical choice, however there are many women across developing countries who don't receive any encouragement or support. As a result, these women are unable to pursue their dreams and a major source of growth is left untapped. As Hillary Clinton recently stated at the APEC Women and the Economy Forum, "Limiting women's economic potential is for every country like leaving money on the table. It doesn't make sense, especially when we are still struggling to grow our way out of the economic crisis."

It is vital that governments and organisations work to support women entrepreneurship and promote growth. However there are many issues that need to be addressed. Women face a myriad of social, economic and structural barriers which prevent them from succeeding in their pursuits. A high proportion of women entrepreneurs in developing countries operate in the informal economy, which restricts the potential for their business to grow.

Women also typically lack access to training and access to business development services that would help them expand. Due to a low rate of financial literacy and a gap in financing for women entrepreneurs operating beyond the micro level, many women also have difficulty accessing the appropriate loans that they need to develop their businesses. Even if women do secure loans, many struggle to manage them.

Additionally, women entrepreneurs also lack effective networks that can support learning and leveraging of resources, such as knowledge, business advice and mentorship. Because much of business culture is male-dominated, women tend to be excluded from such circles. Lastly, women lack the support from their peers and communities to pursue their entrepreneurial pursuits. Many societies still discourage women from going into business, and there are few positive role models for women entrepreneurs to inspire them to push ahead despite the odds.

In the latest article in Generation C Magazine, I highlight the fantastic work the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women is doing to support women entrepreneurs in developing and emerging markets. The Foundation recently launched their Enterprise Development Programme, which delivers tailored business training to women entrepreneurs who need extra support to take their business to the next level. Perhaps one of the most important things the Foundation does is increase women's access to capital, an important and recurring theme that has popped up in many discussions on women's entrepreneurship.

To learn more about the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women and their Enterprise Development Programme, please visit their website http://www.cherieblairfoundation.org/
And watch their video on the Enterprise Development Programme http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6rsvcsvQVo

As Global Entrepreneurship Week comes to an end, it is important that we consider all entrepreneurs, male and female, across the world, and that they all receive equal opportunity and support. Every enterprise is an important piece to the puzzle, whether small, medium or big. And no one wants to leave money on the table.